Discharging young people from foster care with no place to go, no source of income, and no health insurance is not just wrong-it's illegal. Although every state's laws are different, all states have an obligation to make sure you are able to live on your own before forcing you to leave the foster care system. In New York, you can remain in foster care until you are 21. However, once you turn 18, you must agree to remain in care by either signing an agreement or telling the judge in court that you want to stay in care. You cannot "sign out" of foster care by simply signing a piece of paper. According to a new law, you cannot be discharged from care unless the judge approves it. The judge can only discharge you if you have a stable place to live and a way of supporting yourself.
Dale Margolin Cecka, What You Should Know Before You Leave the System, Represent Magazine, January 2007, at 1.